Some simple preparations can make the difference between a fun multi-age activity and a disaster. Chelsey, of Buggy and Buddy is a mom and former teacher and she has a couple tricks to making activities go smoothly. ~Alissa
Crafting and doing activities with children of different ages can be loud and messy, but it can and should also be FUN! I have a soon to be 5 year old daughter, Lucy, and a 20 month old son, Theodore. Most of our crafts are done with both children at the same time, and often, since I'm in a babysitting co-op, we have other kids of various ages join us in the fun too!
It took us a while to get in the groove when doing crafts and activities together, but we finally have it working as smoothly as I think it can with a 20 month old in the mix!
A bit of planning
I almost treat doing our activities and crafts like creating a lesson plan from my old teaching days. I guess it's a hard habit to kick! I go through what I'm going to do in my head, try to anticipate any challenges, and get the materials ready beforehand.
Getting Set-up for Activities
I usually set the work area up on our kitchen table. I can cover it with an art mat if I'm worried about a mess and our floor can be easily wiped up. But, the most important reason I choose this area for our crafting is because it allows me to set up a safe work space for all the kids. If Lucy and any other children visiting that day don't have to worry about Theodore (toddler) grabbing their materials or sticking his hands onto their freshly painted paper (because he will- that boy loves a mess!), they can relax and focus more easily.
While the older kids are sitting at the table with materials and waiting for instructions, Theo is usually in his highchair right with us. I give him his morning or afternoon snack at this time. That way I can focus on the kids at the table, while Theo is content eating and can still observe what we are doing. Now that those curious 20 month old hands are busy, I can focus on the other kids. I usually give them instructions and model anything that needs demonstrating.
With the big kids we go over things like:
- “What should you do if you spill your water?” or
- “How could we make sure all the kids can reach the paint?”
It's important to me that I am just facilitating, and that the kids are making their own decisions. I've found it really helps things run more smoothly when they don't have to depend on the adult for each little thing.
What about the toddler?
Once Theo is done with his snack and the other kids are busily working, I focus on helping him do the activity as well. Depending on the activity, I either buckle him in his booster seat at the table with the other kids or set him up a little workspace of his own nearby on the floor with me.
When we are painting or drawing, sitting at the table is best for him. I usually give him his own set of art supplies because reaching the shared supplies is challenging. (And, really, a 20 month old does not having the concept of sharing down yet.) Theo having his own materials also allows the older kids freedom from worrying about him grabbing their things or constantly spilling their water (because he will spill it many times!)
If we're doing something like a fine motor activity requiring small parts or glue, Theodore's more successful if I set up his own workspace on the floor with me. He can then move around more easily to manipulate the materials. I will usually modify these projects for him. For example, a few weeks ago Lucy was at the table threading pasta onto string to make a necklace. The string was too hard for Theo to handle so I gave him a pipe cleaner instead of the string with some pasta. He loved it!
Like anything else, crafting with kids takes practice. After some trial and error I've figured out that what's important for us to successfully craft together is providing a safe space for each child and having just enough structure while promoting independence. Our crafting times are now something I actually look forward to.
More on Multi-Age Activities and Crafts:
Setting up a Basic Kids Craft Kit – Organization becomes less of a problem when you have this basic kit set up.
Putting a Stop to Kid Arguments During Crafts – Tips for peaceful crafting with young kids
The Truth About Crafting with Kids – It doesn't just happen.
Have you figured out ways to make it easier to craft with all of your kids, or does it work better to try and find one on one time in your family?